Reading A Tour of Mont Blanc and Other Circuitous Adventures in Italy, France and Switzerland was a trip down memory lane for me.
My daughter and I hiked the TMB in the summer of 2011, starting precisely where David Le Vay, the author began his journey. His reasons for going were different than mine but we both had similar experiences. David was nearing his 50th birthday when he and a buddy made a New Year’s Eve pact to tackle the 170 kilometre route. While the mileage isn’t particularly daunting, the route gains and loses somewhere around 8,500 metres (28, 887 feet). About 10,000 hikers start out every year trying to complete the circuit in anywhere from 8 to 12 days.
As he says “that makes it an attractive option for those looking for a challenging walk that can be completing within a reasonable time.”
Not only does Le Vay describe the day to day life on the trail, he weaves in the history of the area and the climb of Mont Blanc itself – in some detail. He also spends a great deal of time thinking about the journey and what it means – partially because he’s a therapist – and partly on account of what the mountains do to you. His nuggets of wisdom from all his thinking are peppered throughout the pages of the book.
I liked the fact that Le Vay wasn’t in a rush. He was really there with his buddy to experience the trail and revel in the landscape. He says:
“I don’t know whether I am walking towards something or away from something, maybe neither and both, but the fact is that by the sheer virtue of spending several hours every day walking in some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable, one can’t help but reflect upon life as you go; it’s the nature of the beast, so to speak.”
He and I would agree on what it’s like to experience the mountains –“…to experience the mountains is to experience a part of oneself. It is an encounter and like all encounters leaves one changed in some small way (or perhaps not so small). And, of course, long distance walking is a form of meditation, each step in itself part of the seductive mantra of motion and movement.”
At the beginning of the 261 page book is a helpful map of the route so you can get oriented. The day to day accounts of the journey are anything but dry. He relates with humour the day’s trials and tribulations, the camaraderie he enjoys so much and the stories that make the hike so memorable. You’ll learn which rifugio you don’t want to spend the night (Elisabetta) and which one you shouldn’t miss.
The book is a great one for those of you who have already done the trail – as it will bring back all sorts of memories both good and bad – and for those of you are contemplating the hike. He also mentions the GR10 on a couple of occasions. It’s a much longer hiking trail that runs the length of the Pyrenees. Although he didn’t write a book about it, he has certainly piqued my interest.
And that’s what he’ll do for you. He’ll pique your interest – and you may now find yourself looking at a calendar wondering when you could do this hike. My advice – allow at least 10 days!
You can also purchase online from Amazon.